January 5, 2015


List of the Best Cities to Dine in the Philippines
Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods creator, host and co-executive producer plus a contributing editor at the Food & Wine Magazine - Andrew Zimmern made a buzz in the Philippine food scene in mid-2012 for declaring that Filipino food will be the next big thing. Zimmern told Today.com "I predict, two years from now, Filipino food will be what we will have been talking about for six months … I think that’s going to be the next big thing, I want to go on record — this is not something that’s hot now somewhere and will get hot everywhere else, it’s just starting." Zimmern added "I think it’s going to take another year and a half to get up to critical mass, but everybody loves Chinese food, Thai food, Japanese food, and it’s all been exploited. The Filipinos combined the best of all of that with Spanish technique. The Spanish were a colonial power there for 500 years, and they left behind adobo and cooking in vinegar — techniques that, applied to those tropical Asian ingredients, are miraculous.” These were Zimmern’s delightful words about the Philippine cuisine and truly inspired every epicure in the Philippines.

As we begin a new year, allow me to share with you fellow food lovers a delightful delicious concoction. A special feature on dining around the archipelago highlighting 7 cities in the Philippines which we have come to love, not only enjoying their tourist sites but savouring their traditional dishes for generations. Without further ado, I give you the best Philippine cities to dine, covering 7 areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao showcasing some of their deliriously delicious traditional creations.

The City of Vigan is rich in history and you get a feeling that you are transported to another era once you step into their streets. It is no wonder that this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999 - preserving Spanish architecture, a vivid reminder that the country was once ruled by the mestizos for almost 400 years. The name is said to come from the Ilocano word "kabiga-an" which is a tuberous plant abundant in the river banks during the olden days. Before the end of 2014, Vigan was named as one of the New 7 Wonder Cities of the World. 


Vigan Empanada
Local wines and fish sauce particularly bagoong that is often used in dishes like Kare-Kare and an accompaniment to green Mangoes are popular in Vigan. Vigan Longganisa (native pork sausages) and Vigan Empanada have caught the taste buds of Manileňos and Sunday Markets are now abundant with these two well-loved delicacies. You can check my post about Vigan Empanada here.

With all the delicious eats Vigan has to offer, my heart melts with even just the thought of Bagnet. This deep-fried pork cut is best eaten with Kare-Kare sauce and tons of hot piping white rice. I remember being told that Bagnet is not as easy as you think. In this version, the lowly pork slab is sliced from the top without separating the entire pork then deep-fried in very hot oil. After sometime, the fried pork is placed in ice cold water then returned to the piping hot oil - this is one way to get that "popped" skin on top. Simply divine!

Fresh Bangus from the wet market

Daing na Bangus (photo by Mike Caballes)
Say Dagupan City and practically any fish-loving Filipino would instantly shout Bangus or Milk Fish with gusto! Dagupan City is one of the top producers of Milk Fish in the country. A fiesta called Bangus Festival was even coined and celebrated annually.

Pigar Pigar from Dagupan
Not a fish person? Do not fret as Dagupan City serves an abundance of meat dishes known as Pigar Pigar and Kaleskes. A familiar dish in Galvan Street, Pigar Pigar resembles Bistek Tagalog (Beef Steak) using tons of onions and tender beef slivers. Pigar Pigar is made either with lean beef cuts or tenderized carabao meat and mixed with almost caramelized onions. For dipping sauce, locals use soy sauce or fish sauce with calamansi (Philippine Lime) and chillies. Kaleskes (some calls it Kaleskesan) are made of braised beef that has been cooked in wood-fire.

Pampanga is known as the Culinary Center of the Philippines, so when in Pampanga - you can never go wrong with food. Even the town of San Fernando which became a city with the ratification of the Republic Act 8990 has retained its culinary charm for generations. Giving tourists - locals and foreign alike, a taste one will never forget.

Exotic dishes such as Betute (frog meat), Tidtad Babi (Kapampangan Dinuguan) and Camaru (criket) are regular dishes in one famous restaurant at the heart of San Fernando City. Morcon, made up of thin-rolled beef then slow cooked until tender, is one of the many delicious dishes from the food basket of the archipelago.

Sisig with Taba ng Talangka (crab fat) photo by Ronald Concepcion
One of the most influential dishes from Pampanga is Sisig. In Manila, this is one of the favorite pulutan (finger food) during drinking sessions but it can also be a hearty viand when accompanied by hot piping white rice. Some restaurants would even include a tablespoon of taba ng talangka (Crab fat) to make this simple dish even more inviting. Sisig is made up of minced pork meat and innards, sautéed in minced garlic and tons of red onions. This simple dining pleasure is heightened with freshly squeezed calamansi (Philippine Lime) extract and a dash of chili sauce. 

Pampanga's cuisine is elaborate and to be just a part of this article would not give justice to their cuisine. One thing for sure, I can personally attest that Pampangeňos are good cooks. When I was younger, my aunt visited and stayed in our house for about two weeks and I could vividly remember feasting on all her dishes as soon as I got home from school - she even introduced me to the wonderful world of baking and being with her even for that short of time, has made me love food even more.

That’s just three (3) of my top seven (7) cities to dine in the Philippines. So if you’re heading to this beautiful archipelago, I hope you won’t be confined with eating just street foods. I’m not suggesting you burn your wallets by spending thousands of Pesos, there are numerous hole-in-the-wall dining places that would offer you what Filipino cuisine is all about. 

List of Best Cities to Dine in the Philippines
Part two (2) of The Best Cities to Dine in the Philippines here.

Boracay Island's Chori Burger and Cheesecake from Cafe del Sol
If you’re planning to visit Boracay Island, try Chori Burger - Boracay’s local burger here. Craving for some sweets while watching a glorious sunset? Check out Cafe del Sol here.
Are you constantly in search for awesome food destinations and curious about the Philippine food scene? Then follow me at Instagram as I often share my latest food discoveries, pristine beach destinations and stunning sunsets  via @eattoyourheartscontent.

This has been part of my Monday Madness section, sharing with you all the sumptuous dishes that I go crazy about!

This unpublished article was created in 2013 for an assignment at Republic of 7107 Island Travel Magazine. 

This humble Philippine food blog, Eat To Your Heart’s Content has turned 4 years-old this month of January. I may not have published numerous food articles over the last four years, but I am absolutely thankful for everyone who took time in checking this food blog, commenting, connecting and for allowing me to share with you all my food adventures around the Philippines. I hope you continue to join me as I search for more deliriously delicious dining destinations and food discoveries. Thank you all!!! 

Pie Rivera is a food columnist of Republic of 7107 Island Travel Magazine. For subscriptions to the magazine, you may email them at subscription@7107magazine.ph. 

Feel free to email me at eattoyourheartscontent@gmail.com - I love to hear from you.

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All photos in this site were captured by Pie Rivera unless otherwise stated.

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  1. Replies
    1. Hi Richard, sorry to know that Philippines is not your favorite but Palawan is ... Palawan is indeed beautiful but so is the rest of the country ... thanks for dropping by :)

  2. Never been to the Philippines but I have a few good friends from there and they cook awesome food :-)